The guiding strategy for conserving Georgia wildlife needs you.
The state Department of Natural Resources is seeking public comments on a draft version of the revised State Wildlife Action Plan (www.georgiawildlife.com/conservation/wildlife-action-plan).
Often called SWAP, this plan outlines the steps DNR and partner organizations follow to conserve native wildlife and habitats before they become rarer and more costly to protect. The SWAP is required by Congress for DNR and other state wildlife agencies to receive State Wildlife Grants, the main federal funding source for states to conserve nongame – animals not legally fished for or hunted, from gopher tortoises to golden-winged warblers.
A comprehensive review of wildlife plans is required at least every 10 years, to include new information and changing conditions. Georgia developed its SWAP in 2005. For the last two years, DNR’s Wildlife Resources Division has worked with agencies, organizations, schools, land managers and other stakeholders around the state and region to review and revise the plan. The draft is open for comment until July 15.
Jon Ambrose, chief of the division’s Nongame Conservation Section, said the public has a vital stake in the State Wildlife Action Plan, in no small part because more than 90 percent of the land in Georgia is privately owned.
“Engaging a broad range of Georgians is critical for shaping the plan, which helps conserve wildlife and the natural resources on which all of us and future generations depend,” Ambrose said.
Go to www.georgiawildlife.com/conservation/wildlife-action-plan to see the plan and make comments. An overview plus reports by teams focused on specific areas such as birds, fishes and plants are available.
After July 15, the plan will be revised further as needed, and submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for review and approval.
Although Georgia is one of the nation’s most biologically diverse states, about 320 species in the state have such low populations they are state and federally protected. The draft SWAP identifies 349 animal and 292 plant species as high priorities for conservation, and lists 150 actions to address their needs.
The state’s original plan promoted work such as prescribed burning, controlling invasive species and restoring native vegetation, enhancing habitats on public and private conservation lands. Survey and monitoring have helped manage populations of amphibians, shorebirds, sea turtles and rare plants. Recovery efforts for federally-listed species, technical assistance for private landowners and environmental education have all benefited from resources and direction provided through the SWAP.
This work not only affects Georgians’ quality of life, it strengthens the state’s economy, with wildlife-watching activities ringing up an estimated $1.9 billion impact in 2011.
Help conserve wildlife and wild places in Georgia. Review and comment on the revised State Wildlife Action Plan at www.georgiawildlife.com/conservation/wildlife-action-plan. An overview and team reports focused on specific areas such as birds, fishes and plants are available.
Learn more about conserving nongame: www.georgiawildlife.com/conservation/annualreport
Support wildlife conservation: www.georgiawildlife.com/conservation/support